A snowmelt run emerging from the Blue Mountains with the peak usually coming in May. The first half of the run flows through Ponderosa pine forest and then transitions to the desert terrain of eastern Oregon. This is a classic 3 day trip.
Full description in Soggy Sneakers, Oregon River Tours, and Western Whitewater.
River flooded at 28K cfs at the Monument Gauge on May 14-15, 2010. Had not flooded this high since 1997 (30K). Only other flood of this magnitude was in 1925. Due to flooding BLM river ranger/Grant County Sheriff did not recommend running river weekend of May 21-22, we did it anyway. Flows were approx 8.75 @ put-in and 8.5 at take-out. (Middle Fork was contributing 2K of this amount). 1 14' raft and 1 16' cataraft and 1 tandem canoe, mixed levels of experience among the boaters. No new debris encountered (somewhat surprisingly).
Campsites and their access were reasonable. No problems. Shuttle driver reported that a couple of fellas floated river at peak flow. I assume there were no problems for them. River appears runnable (and importantly, camp-able) at flows up to 15K or less. Open-canoeists can expect to regularly take-on water unless they sneak rapids.
The gage listed above is not the right one for the North Fork of the John Day. Look instead at
USGS 14046000 NORTH FORK JOHN DAY RIVER AT MONUMENT, OR
The river gets only slightly more difficult (3- in my estimation) for levels higher than the max suggested level on this page. The rapids mostly become washed out with larger waves, and the river becomes more continuous, making it harder to rescue a swimmer. We put in at 9,000 CFS (on Monument gage) and floated for 3 days taking out at about 5,500 CFS. Others in Paddle Trails Club have told me they have done similar levels in open canoes. At higher levels you have a chance of sneaking the rapid "Surprise" on the right, but only if you recognize it in time and there is no wood. Both of those things happened to me in my kayak at 8,200 CFS but it is not much harder going right through the middle anyhow.
The take-out at Monument is about a quarter mile downstream of the the bridge, on river-right. Peer through the willows looking for a small boat ramp where there is now a nice parking lot with picnic tables and a toilet. Some guidebooks still tell you to take out at the bridge.
The river gets only slightly more difficult (class III) at higher flows (around 9000 cfs). The rapids mostly become washed out with larger waves, and the river becomes more continuous, making it harder to rescue a swimmer. Members of Paddle Trails Club report doing the run in open canoes at higher flows. At higher levels you have a chance of sneaking the rapid "Surprise" on the right, but only if you recognize it in time and there is no wood. You can always go down the middle too.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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D Spencer in front of Johnny Cake Mtn
near Zion Scope Mtn
F Chee and C Panks, PTCC
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